On this day, we commemorate the trial and death by crucifixion of our beloved, Jesus. On this day, we remember the price he paid for standing in his truth. I invite you today to spend time with scripture by reading the gospel account of these events, and offer a visual meditation through clips from some of my favorite Jesus movies, along with an excerpt from my yet to be released novel, Song of the Beloved – Jesus through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.
From Jesus Christ Superstar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJHCVR8vQCA
From Jesus of Nazareth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fAMDYlJgpU
Some music to accompany your reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePe0XyJwdJE
In the words of Mary Magdalene:
As Jesus released his final breath, my resolve gave way and the grief and horror that I had contained erupted into wailing and screaming. I tore at my hair and at my garments wanting to be freed of anything that might stand in the way of release.
It was finished. Jesus was dead. As we poured out our grief, some of the Roman soldiers who had been moved by Jesus’ love drew toward us, knelt on the ground and offered their own prayers. I, in turn, was moved by their compassion and in awe over the ability of Jesus’ love to transcend even the perceived separations of culture, belief and rank. Lazarus, Martha, Judas, Nicodemus, Joanna and Mary’s brother Joseph who had joined them after the noon hour soon joined us at the top of the hill. After a time, the commanding officer came and said, “We must take him down from the cross so you have time to entomb him before the sun sets. We nodded in our assent.
We stood in silence as the soldiers worked together to remove Jesus from the instrument of his torture and death. They removed the spikes from his feet, and then lowered the crossbar as Joseph, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Judas and John bore the weight of his lifeless body. They laid him out on the ground as they removed the spikes from his wrists and the crown of thorns from his head. The men gathered about Jesus’ lifeless body as Mother Mary and I laid out the red cloak – the only thing we had in which to wrap his body. As they laid his body upon the cloak, I fell upon him, wrapping myself around his lifeless body. I held him to my heart as I cried and I rocked him as I would a child. My heart was broken, my soul torn in two. But as I held him to me, I was more and more certain that this body had been just a shell and that my beloved, no longer dwelled within it. And I heard my beloved’s voice as I had all those many times before, ‘Mary, do not be afraid. I am with you always, even to the end of time.” These words gave me the strength I needed to release his body. I stepped back and allowed the men to gather him up to be carried to the place of his entombment.
During the evening and into the morning, Joseph had accomplished the preparations for Jesus’ burial. First he returned to Bethany to retrieve the burial nard that had been set aside for Martha’s dowry, along with the burial cloths that were all housed in the wedding chest beneath her bed. He located a humble tomb near Jerusalem since their family tomb was several days’ journey to Capernaum. The tomb he had procured was in the potter’s field just outside the city walls in the hillside caves usually reserved for the poor. We took up Jesus’ beaten, broken and lifeless body and walked in procession the short distance to the potter’s field intoning the Kaddish, the Hebrew song of mourning. Three Roman soldiers followed us at a respectful distance, having been ordered to see that Jesus was properly buried and to stand guard at the tomb until three days had passed. The High Priests wanted to make sure that no one was able to fake a resurrection, thereby confirming Jesus’ prediction that he would be raised from the dead. We arrived at the tomb, a small cave hollowed out in the limestone. The space was large enough for us to enter and stand upright. The men lay Jesus upon the floor of the cave while Mother Mary and I prepared the burial cloths. The burial cloths were strips of linen which we first covered in the burial nard – a mixture of resin, oils and spices which were to mask the stench of death while deterring insects, vermin and other animals from feasting on our dead. We soaked each strip and carefully bound his body from foot to head. A separate cloth was used for the head which we first covered in nard, then draped over his face from neck to crown, then over the back of his head to his shoulders. This was wrapped in strips of linen as the rest of the body had been. After his body was anointed and bound, we said our final prayers, our individual goodbyes and departed the tomb.
I waited outside the tomb as John, Lazarus, Nicodemus, Joseph and Judas, along with three of the Roman soldiers rolled the stone in front of the tomb. Mary, Martha, Salome and I held each other as we waited. After the tomb was safely sealed, the men returned to us, John holding in his arms, Jesus’ scarlet cloak. He came toward me and gently laid it into my arms. I wept at his thoughtful generosity. We said our goodbyes as Mary, Judas, Joseph and John turned toward Jerusalem to deliver the news to the Galilean disciples waiting in the Upper Room. Lazarus, Salome, Martha and I turned toward the road to Bethany. As we turned toward home, I heard my beloved’s voice for what I was sure would be the final time, “Mary I am with you always, even unto the end of time.” This time, I found no comfort in these words, only the finality of death.
copyright Lauri Ann Lumby